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John Reynolds

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular house, with an almost flat roof and three chimneys. The façade, of five windows over four windows and the front door, has had a striking 2‑story iron grillwork portico applied to it, of much the appearance of lace. It is the Sturtevant House in Beardstown, Illinois.]

Historic American Buildings Survey

Christopher G. Sturtevant House, Beardstown, Built 1852.

 p94  The New Orleans Influence

An object that always arouses the interest and curiosity of visitors attending the annual fish fry at Beardstown, on the Illinois River, is a decorous, white-painted old house at the southeast corner of the courthouse square; a house noticeable for the fanciful iron grillwork decorating its porches. So ornamental is this white-painted fretwork that onlookers often compare it to the laciness of a valentine.

To those who have visited New Orleans, however, this sight is a familiar one. For it is a good example of the type of decoration to be found on the balconies of houses in the old French quarter of the delta metropolis. Since architects regard it as a noteworthy demonstration of the New Orleans influence in Illinois architecture, it was included in the Historic American Buildings Survey along with somewhat similar dwellings at Galena and other Illinois towns near the Mississippi River.

A grape design was used on the porches of the Beardstown house — grape clusters and leaves interwoven with curling branches. It is of  p95 cast iron, instead of wrought metal, and the story is told that the molds used for the casting were afterward destroyed so that there would be no repetition of this design.

In obtaining the history of this landmark, Earl H. Reed, district officer of the Historic American Buildings Survey, found that the grillwork porches were not part of the original dwelling. He learned that the ornamental trim was added to the house soon after its purchase in 1865 by a Mississippi skipper, Captain Charles S. Ebaugh. In adding the fretwork trim to his porches, Captain Ebaugh desired to produce work similar to what he had seen in the Vieux Carré of New Orleans.

Although it was Captain Ebaugh who gave this house its distinctive appearance, the dwelling is named on the drawings of the Survey after the man who had it built. This man was Christopher C. Sturtevant, an early settler of Beardstown. He erected the house in 1852, designing it in the Greek Revival mode of the time. This style is noticeable in the cornices and pilasters of the two‑story frame dwelling, as well as in the interior trim of the ten rooms.

After living in this house for about ten years, Captain Ebaugh sold it to John H. Harris, pioneer land agent of the Illinois River country, early Beardstown businessman, and one of the organizers and president of the First National Bank of Beardstown. Here Harris and his family lived and entertained, and here the master of the house died at an advanced age in 1911. His widow survived him by six years. The house then came into the possession of one of the Harris daughters, Mrs. Robert Burr Glenn.

During the disastrous flood of 1922, when the Illinois River rose and practically submerged the entire town, the Sturtevant house was protected by walls of sandbags. White, trim, quaintly old-fashioned and set among shade trees, it survives as a relic of the era when palatial steamboats plied the Illinois River and Lawyer Abe Lincoln defended "Duff" Armstrong in the Beardstown courthouse.

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Page updated: 1 May 12